News / South Africa

Yeshiel Panchia
3 minute read
14 Oct 2017
6:45 am

Crowd bays for blood of man who allegedly murdered his wife in Silvertown

Yeshiel Panchia

The man fled to his home, wrapped his neck in electrical wire, hung it on the bedroom door and choked himself to death.

Community members beat a man alleged to have murdered his wife in the township of Silvertown, Soweto on 10 October 2017. The man was accosted and beaten by the community, and later hanged himself while being kept prisoner in his house. Picture: Yeshiel Panchia

It’s just another day in another shack settlement. Another day without running water or electricity. It’s been that way since 1993 when the settlement sprang up, the residents say.

There’s anger in the air, mixing with the smoke from stoves and fires which spirals lazily into the air and lingers. This place is alongside the R558 next to Soweto and it’s known as Silvertown Extension 4.

No one in authority listens to them and all they get are empty promises from politicians, its residents say. So they try to make the politicians listen by barricading the R558. It’s the same story all over the country.

I’m here with my camera – as I have been several times this year – to document this story. I witness small sporadic clashes with police who are mandated to keep the R558 open.

I photograph the usual tear gas and rubber bullets. Half-an-hour later, the confrontations have died down. A group of people head down a side road to join a larger crowd.

Something – instinct maybe – tells me to follow them. The group of about 100 people surrounds a small shack and its yard. There must be something in there, I think as I slip past the crowd and into the shack.

Thokoza, a community member, informs me that a man has allegedly beaten his wife to death. The shack is typical of hundreds of thousands of informal homes in South Africa.

On the bed lies a woman’s body. It shows no sign of decomposition. Her body strikes me as tough, covered in scars. I notice some bruising on her neck and shoulders. She seems vulnerable in death, even infantile. I take pictures while her husband stands accused beside the bed.

Thokoza called the police some 30 minutes earlier, but they have not come due to the strike. Outside, the community is furious, calling for the man to be brought out to justice.

Thokoza and some other men attempt to take him out to walk him to the police guarding the R558. As he is brought out, the crowd’s rage increases.

They barge into the garden and begin beating the man and beating each other trying to get to him. They are going to beat him to death.

He curls up to protect his head before he is rescued by Thokoza and the others. He is dazed. They take him back inside the house to his dead wife.

The crowd, emboldened now, run amok around the house, attempting to rip the metal sheeting off the walls and the gate behind the steady backs of the protectors.

Twenty more minutes of chaos pass, then one of the men goes inside. When he comes out, the crowd is roaring. Word passes from him to another and another. The husband is dead.

He has wrapped his neck in electrical wire, hung it on the bedroom door and choked himself to death. The crowd goes quiet, a balloon let out too slowly, agitated.

The crowd moves off, but they’re not celebrating, perhaps because they didn’t get to vent their anger on this man. The couple were caretakers of a nine-year-old girl who was at school when this occurred.

I do not know what happened when she arrived home. I leave. Is there even a story here? Or is this just another angry day, in an angry community, in an angry country?

See gallery from the incident below. Photos: Yeshiel Panchia